Sam Charles

Communications Manager

School of Engineering
Office: EME3251
Phone: 250.807.8136


Sam started at the Okanagan campus of the University of British in 2013 as a Senior Media Production Specialist with UBC Studios Okanagan.  After four years in that role, he transitioned into the Communications Manager role with the School of Engineering.

At the School of Engineering, he is responsible for developing strategic communication materials that highlight the innovative research and experiential learning on the Okanagan campus.  Sam is energized by telling the endlessly inspiring stories of the School’s researchers, students and staff.

With over twenty years of experience in communications, film, television and radio production, Sam is a seasoned professional communicator focused on generating dynamic and engaging content.

Sam has represented Canada three-times at Summer Universiades as Team Canada’s videographer documenting the Games for international audiences.  On Friday nights during the varsity season, he is the play-by-play voice (and technical advisor) for UBC Okanagan Heat basketball and volleyball webcasts on


Integrated strategic communications including social media; Develop, design, and maintain communications content; Media relations; Issues Management; Develop and prepare faculty awards nominations


Why did you choose UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering?

I received funding from the Malaysian government to pursue a PhD, and only universities in the world’s top 50 rankings can be selected. I initially didn’t consider North American universities because not many of my colleagues had those universities on their radar. But I took this as a challenge, and then shortlisted several North America universities, and cross-matched them with my area of study.

I completed my BSc in Civil Engineering from UTM, Malaysia & MEng major in geotechnical engineering from UMP, Malaysia. During my MEng, I completed an extensive literature review in soil stabilization of organic soil using clay additive (my core research area); I came across interesting articles from Dr. Sumi Siddiqua and her research group from UBC Okanagan. I was inspired by those articles, and reached out to Dr. Siddiqua.  After establishing a connection with Dr. Siddiqua and her group, I decided to pursue a PhD at UBC Okanagan. I joined her research group in September 2015.

Apart from the high-impact research, I found many positive reviews of Okanagan lifestyle such as how the community welcomes international students. With a young family, my husband and I did a great deal of research into the community where we were intending to settle.  We particularly liked the size of Kelowna compared to other larger urban areas/cities.

Describe your research?

The goal of Dr. Siddiqua’s research program is to develop new generation chemical-based binder technology for road subgrade stabilization. As part of the program, I worked on silty sand subgrades.

The majority of BC highways are laid on problematic soil called silty sand. Due to changes in moisture, the strength of such soils weakens during winter and spring season. This weakness can lead to deterioration of the flexible road pavement and results in the development of cracking, rutting and potholes. This soil can be improved by using locally-mined calcium bentonite with the addition of MgCl2 and alkaline activator. The traditional chemical soil additive for soil stabilization are cement, fly ash or bitumen.  Our results to date are promising for the construction (specifically road infrastructure) industry. Collaborators for this project are the Ministry of Highways Kamloops, Pacific Bentonite Ltd. and, the Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP), Malaysia.  A part of my project was also supported by Eminence funds from the Green Construction Research and Training Centre.

What was it like working with Dr. Siddiqua?

I’m really thankful to Dr. Siddiqua for this research opportunity. Dr. Siddiqua created a great learning environment in her research group. Her lab is welcoming for female students, and students from diverse backgrounds.

My experience in the research group was excellent. Dr. Siddiqua encourages a highly collaborative working environment in her research lab with industry partners and researchers from other disciplines interacting and sharing ideas. She fosters hands-on experiences in the lab and provides informal interactions with lab members on a regular basis. There is a highly interactive weekly meeting in the research group, where all members present their progress and participate in discussions. Because of this, I was always focused and driven to perform the best in my work.

You have a young family, how did you juggle parenting and graduate studies?

When I registered as a PhD student at UBC Okanagan, which is a thousand miles away from home, I arrived with my husband and a 6 months old baby. It was quite a struggle during the early stage of my research, but my husband and I worked hard to establish strong time management, so I could fully concentrate on my research work and classes during my time at school. When I arrived at home, I’d switch gears as a wife and a mom. During my third year of studies, I delivered my second born. My time was very restricted with two kids, and again time management was crucial. It was not an easy task to juggle between parenting and studies. Still, as a student as well as a parent, I strived to be mentally and emotionally stable, and physically active. I’m not afraid to cry out loud; in fact, I always shared my problem with my close friends. I have to give credit to my husband for being so supportive and understanding.

Kelowna is a great place to raise kids.  We were fortunate to find a strong support system of young families in the area.  My husband and I are not only devoted to our workloads, but to ensuring that our children receive the love and attention they deserve.  I always dedicated my weekends to them.

Being a part of Dr. Siddiqua research group also helped me excel in my studies.  With weekly group meetings where research progress was tracked, I was provided with tools to plan and organize my work in an effective manner.  From my personal experience, it is invaluable to have a supervisor that really cares and understands your situation (especially as a student with a young family).

What does the future hold for you?

Having a PhD is the beginning of my new academic journey. It taught me how to be organized, and how to structure scientific research in order to ensure that it leads to significant contributions to the body of knowledge. It’s never-ending work.

I am really eager to share the knowledge that I have gained and deliver it to aspiring, future engineers.

I hope by completing my PhD that my children will be inspired to pursue a similar passion. One day if they feel like there is a something blocking their way, they can reflect on my successes (realizing that nothing is impossible), and find a way to overcome their obstacles.

We asked Dr. Muhammad’s supervisor, Sumi Siddiqua, what impressed her about Dr. Muhammad?

Munira is attentive, thoughtful and patience. These qualities helped her to complete her PhD on time with two young kids at home.

What made her such a good fit in your lab?

Munira joined my lab as she is passionate to learn advanced techniques related to road subgrade studies. She is a team player and a great mentor to new students in my lab. Most importantly, she is organized in research. She is respectful towards all the lab members and never hesitate to help others when needed. Interactive environment is essential for my lab and Munira played a key role to maintain such environment.

What do you think the future holds for her?

Munira holds a faculty position in Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP), Malaysia. She is excited to join her university as she wants to establish her own research group at UMP. I know she will have a successful team in coming years and we will be collaborating in some exciting projects soon.


UBC Okanagan researchers from the Centre for Transportation and Land Use Research (CeTLUR) will present their research this week at the 2020 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.  The meeting features over 5-thousand presentations in nearly 800 sessions and workshops featuring topics related to the theme “A Century of Progress: Foundation for the Future.”

“This is the most reputed transportation conference engaging around 12,000 attendees every year, and it is important to present our findings to these major stakeholders from around the world,” explains Mahmudur Fatmi, assistant professor and principal investigator at the CeTLUR.  The CeTLUR focuses on modeling transportation and land-use interactions including urban system simulation, autonomous and shared mobility, activity-based modeling, transit planning, vehicular emissions, and road safety.

CeTLUR researchers will present five full papers, and Fatmi will preside over one session during the four-day event.  Topics will vary from modeling destination choice behavior for dockless bike sharing service users to developing methods for improved trip generation prediction, and modeling injury severity of road collisions.

“I am very proud of the contributions to the field that our group has achieved since arriving at UBC,” says Fatmi, “and we are excited to showcase our latest findings at TRB.”

Joining Fatmi in Washington will be graduate researchers Muntahith Orvin and Bijoy Saha.

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) 99th Annual Meeting will be held January 12–16 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

The CeTLUR presentation schedule is below. If you are attending the event, please feel free to stop by.


On December 6th the School of Engineering is hosting a memorial and vigil for 14 Not Forgotten from 12:00 – 1:00 pm in the EME Zero Level Foyer.

All are welcome.

The School will also be unveiling a 14 Not Forgotten plaque that will be permanently situated in the EME main foyer.

On December 6, 1989, an armed man walked into an engineering class at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal. After forcing the men to leave, he stated that he hated feminists and began to shoot the women in the class. By the end of the shooting, he had killed 14 women and injured ten more. In response to this tragedy, Canada established December 6 as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. This day serves as a reminder of the gender-based violence against women in Canada and around the world that persists today.

Hundreds of community members and prospective students toured the UBC Okanagan campus and the School of Engineering on Saturday.

The half-day event featured interactive demonstrations, lab tours, and information presentations about all four disciplines (civil, electrical, manufacturing and mechanical engineering) along with minors and options.

“Today is all about giving the community and students an inside look at what engineering is all about at UBC Okanagan,” explains Marie Reid, outreach coordinator for the School of Engineering.  “Community members and prospective students have an opportunity to speak one-on-one with current students, alumni, faculty and staff.”

According to Reid, who earned an undergraduate degree and MASc in mechanical engineering prior to working for the School, the event is aimed at highlighting all the academic, social and research opportunities available at UBC Okanagan.

The event included a student design team showcase presentation featuring undergraduate students from a variety of design teams discussing their design projects in interactive sessions.  The teams included UBCO Motorsports, Concrete Toboggan and UBCO Aero Club discussing their latest projects.

Female students in grades 10, 11, and 12 had the opportunity to participate in a women in engineering lunch where they networked and heard from a panel of current female engineering students.

“Every year this event gets bigger and bigger, and the interest from the community continues to grow,” says Reid, “we are thrilled to give our community a glimpse about what the School of Engineering is all about.”

For more information about School of Engineering outreach activities visit

Full album of images from the event are available at

Never one to let an opportunity pass him by, Ilija Hristovski used a networking opportunity at UBC Okanagan’s Aerospace Industry Night to establish an international research internship in Germany at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).

Hristovski, one of the executives of the UBC Okanagan Aerospace Club, not only helped organize the 2017 Industry Night but forged a relationship with a DLR representative who was a guest speaker at the event.  The DLR representative (who had a specialty in manufacturing engineering) referred Hristovski to colleagues at DLR’s Institute of Communications and Navigation.

“Networking and persistence definitely pay off when you have a particular goal in mind,” explains Hristovski, who is fast-tracking from his MASc to a PhD next spring.

Since DLR typically does not accept international undergraduate internship students, Hristovski had to wait until he started his Master’s before being accepted into a six-and-a-half month internship.  His experience this summer at DLR translated into directed studies course credits towards his MASc.

Hristovski’s research at DLR focused on correcting atmospheric turbulence for ground-to-satellite communications using a laser guide star method.  Hristovski describes the process as shooting a laser into the upper atmosphere to help optical signals establish an undisturbed path to reach space.  “The initial laser establishes a path for the optical signal to follow; basically bending or adjusting the beam in the most efficient way possible to reduce the negative effects caused by the atmosphere.”

DLR’s Institute of Communications and Navigation is a global leader in this field.  The facility holds the current world-record in free space optical communications links at the highest data rate.

“Where UBC Okanagan excels at component level processes and improvements, I found that DLR was working at the systems’ level,” says Hristovski.  Working in an international environment with interns from around the world, Hristovski and the research team worked on several confidential projects that resulted in one poster presentation and several internal reports.

Although most of his time in Germany was spent in the lab, Hristovski was able to explore some of the surrounding villages when the team undertook a 10-kilometre optical link test between mountains.  “The work was so interesting that you’d wake up in the morning, and want to run to the lab,” says Hristovski.

One of the biggest accomplishments for Hristovski stemming from this experience is building a PhD collaboration between his supervisor, Jonathan Holzman and colleagues at DLR.  Hristovski will most likely return to Germany next summer and start experiments related to those studies.

“I’m ecstatic about this next chapter of my research, and can’t wait to get started.”

At 75-years young, Murray Forbes says it’s never too late to learn

Like all engineering students, Murray Forbes wants to be an engineer. In fact, he has a very clear idea of the type of engineer he wants to be.

Forbes stands out a bit amongst the class of 2023. He calls himself a “mature student,” and he is. Murray Forbes is 75-years-young.

After a long career in the aviation industry, Forbes decided to pursue a degree that he aspired to, but never had the chance complete when he was younger.

In elementary school, he was never the strongest student and was challenged by math and science, he explains.  It didn’t help that he attended 13 different schools across three continents as his mother was an entrepreneur who ran cattle ranch kitchens, owned a small grocery store, was a teletype operator for the Canadian Pacific Fleet and also operated a seniors care home.

“After school, I attended seminary and by the time I got to college I had two children and one on the way,” explains Forbes.

The rigours of school and family life made him switch to an aviation diploma. He started working after graduating, but still had the education bug so he tackled an engineering diploma in aeronautical and navigation, doing it all by distance education.

For the past 40 years, including 20 running his own firm at the Kelowna International Airport, Forbes worked in aviation—modifying and repairing fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Although he loved the work, one aspect of business bothered him.

“I have basically been doing engineering work, but had to hire engineers to sign off on my work.”

Part of the impetus of returning to school stemmed from the relationship he had with those engineers. His family has a history of later-life career changes—his mother returned to school in her late 60s to become a realtor, and had a fruitful career in that field until her mid-80s.

“Fortunately, I’m still healthy,” says Forbes. “I’ve built some boats (as a hobby) and I don’t need to build another boat.”

He says he simply needed something to do, and his bucket list included getting an engineering degree.

The process hasn’t been entirely smooth. Forbes had to first attend college to upgrade his high school accreditation. He then earned an associate degree from Okanagan College, brushing up on his math and science.

Does it bother him that his classmates are young enough to be his grand children? Not at all. Working with young people, he says, has been one of the best perks of the back-to-school experience.

“They have been amazingly accepting, and someone is always helping me.”

Working in a complex industry for many years, juggling dozens of jobs at the same time was a normal occurrence, so the adjustment to the workload at the School of Engineering hasn’t been a shock for Forbes.

“Having spent years juggling multiple projects and deadlines has definitely helped with transitioning into the program.”

Work and life balance is also an issue for the 75-year-old student, perhaps more so than his academic counterparts.

“Balancing a home life, with a wife and home, along with five courses can be stressful,” says Forbes.

His latest challenge has been mastering Solidworks, a modeling computer-aided design and computer-aided engineering program that renders 3D designs.

Ultimately, his goal is to become an engineer like the ones he would hire when he ran his aviation business—someone who knew what they were doing because of breadth of their experience.

“I probably won’t graduate until I’m 80,” he says. “But I am really enjoying the trip.”


The School of Engineering is thrilled to announce its 2019 Student Ambassador Team.  This group of enthusiastic current students from each program discipline help provide prospective and current students a personal and informative connection to UBC Okanagan Engineering.

The ambassadors represent UBC and the School of Engineering at outreach and community events while coordinating activities and workshops.  Equally as important, the student ambassadors are providing mentorship to their peers both in person and through social media channels.


Von Acosta, 2nd year Mechanical

To promote engineering and STEM programs to future prospects who are considering taking this career.

Aliyah Ayorinde, 2nd year Electrical

This year I really wanted to focus on engaging with my community, and what better way than to be an ambassador for it? I’m really looking forward to representing the School of Engineering, and I hope that I can express some of the more unexpected sides of the discipline.

Rhianna Dunlop, 3rd year Mechanical

To highlight my experiences in engineering with those considering entering into an engineering program!

Owais Hashmi, 4th year Mechanical

Desire to share experiences with others and gain new experiences myself

Nicole Keeler, 2nd year Civil

I wanted to be a SOE Student Ambassador to provide a link between new students and the School of Engineering

Tuguldur Ulziidelger, 2nd year Electrical

I know that Student Ambassadors can be tremendously helpful to current and prospective students. At the same time, the experience and perspective that this position can offer to me was very valuable.

Haytham Zhang, 2nd year Civil

To showcase how exciting and fun engineering Is to the community and it really can be a program for everyone






In his first year of undergraduate studies at UBC Okanagan, Logan Tarasoff was introduced to the sport of powerlifting.  According to Tarasoff, the sport encouraged him to establish clear goals to work towards. “If I had a competition coming up in 6 months, I could set some goals then work backwards to determine what I need to do in order to meet those goals.”

That focus and drive led to Tarasoff earning several medals at last month’s Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships in Newfoundland.

Originally from Kamloops, Tarasoff decided to attend the School of Engineering at UBC Okanagan because he liked the smaller campus and its proximity to home.  “I saw an opportunity for more interactions with faculty, and it has led to some strong working relationships with researchers on this campus.”

Tarasoff recently returned to campus, after a short hiatus, to start his Masters studies in electrical engineering. His research focuses on using computer vision to improve forestry harvesting equipment.

Inspired by his co-op experience in the forestry sector, Tarasoff is excited to get started.  “I saw first-hand the trouble the current system experiences with accuracy related to variables like bark thickness and changes in environment.”  Tarasoff points out that his co-op terms also provided insight into what a research project needs to succeed in industry.

Through computer-visioning, the system that Tarasoff plans on building will provide real-time assessments of the logs’ size and shape providing the automated harvester with fast and accurate information.  Tarasoff is conducting his research under the supervision of Dr. Homayoun Najjaran in the Advanced Control and Intelligent Systems (ACIS) Laboratory. He will pursue his passion for learning more about robotics and automation in an industrial project in partnership with Axis Forestry.

Collaborations with logging contractors in the Interior has been one of the many benefits of conducting this research at UBC Okanagan.  “We plan on going out to their sites, and getting their input into our progress.”

With most of the big manufacturers in the forestry sector outside North America, Tarasoff says his research will bring innovation to the industry leading to more affordable equipment and further efficiencies for Canadian producers.

Over the next couple of years, Tarasoff has a lot of goals both in powerlifting and his research.  “I hope to place well at our next national competition as I will be competing in the open category, and more importantly, I want to create some computer vision algorithms that do what we want and demonstrate it can work as well if not better than a regular mechanical system.”




New funding will bring Indigenous-focused modules into the Engineering curriculum.
The initiative is funded by UBC Okanagan’s Aspire Learning and Teaching (ALT) Fund. The Fund supports curriculum change, innovative teaching practices and learning environment enhancements as envisioned by the campus’ strategic plan.
Over the next three years, the initiative will see Indigenous-focused modules added to the Engineering curriculum to enhance the existing Applied Science program.
The School of Engineering’s Ian Foulds and Jannik Eikenaar are leading the initiative.
“Research indicates there are numerous benefits from incorporating case studies into the classroom and it is especially helpful in bridging theory and practice” explains Foulds.
Building the modules is only one of the focuses of the initiative, according to Eikenaar. “Just as importantly, this initiative will include training for our faculty members to help them build this content into their existing courses.”
Faculty will be provided with training that includes best practices for using the modules, and cultural sensitivity training.
“One of the goals of the School of Engineering is to increase community outreach initiatives that promote engineering for under-represented populations” explains Foulds. “By building awareness and understanding among our students, staff, and faculty members, , we hope to better support our Indigenous students and engage with Indigenous communities.”
The initiative is also a response to The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call for educators to “build student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect” (Calls to Action, clause 63).
The modules will include case studies that highlight historical contexts and legal requirements for consultation with Indigenous communities. They will also provide tools to develop strong working relationships with Indigenous peoples through cultural understanding.
Once the modules are fully incorporated into the curriculum, Foulds and Eikenaar hope it leads to a more equitable and inclusive learning environment.
“As awareness of Indigenous contexts increases in our undergraduate population, and best practices for consultation and engagement are developed, we expect to see proposals for course‐based projects that involve collaboration with Indigenous communities” explains Foulds.

Approximately 2000 Engineering students will directly benefit from this initiative over the next three years.

For more information about the Aspire Learning and Teaching Fund at the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columbia visit

New research has uncovered a new, fast and highly-accurate means of measuring contaminants in water.  It could mean rapid detection of different types of contaminants that current methods may miss including low-levels of pesticides and hydrocarbons.

Pipelines can rupture or have slow leaks that release oil products into ground-water or waterways.  Similarly, storms can move pesticides off agricultural lands and into neighbouring waterways.

This new assessment tool could provide an improved mechanism for municipal, agricultural and industrial stakeholders to mobilize when contamination occurs.

“Our initial findings are very favorable and show a high level of accuracy” explains Nicolas Peleato, an assistant professor at UBC’s Okanagan campus.  “We were specifically looking at a few key pesticides and hydrocarbons leaching into waterways, but this process can easily be adapted for several other contaminants.”

There is currently a need for methods that can rapidly monitor harmful environmental contaminants in surface waters.

By using a fluorescence-based method, rapid detection of contaminants at levels typically observed during contamination events, can be measured.   The method involves using a beam of light that excites electrons in molecules of certain compounds causing them to emit light and be identified.

The new tool differs from existing test methods because it utilizes a novel process that considers background interference from compounds naturally present in surface waters.

“Modelling is very important in this process,” says Peleato, “it enables us to provide lower detection limits and increase accuracy.”  The researchers are now looking into advanced data-driven methods to further lowering detection limits and increasing confidence in the method.

Real-time monitoring system for environmental contaminants can also be a valuable tool for assessing water quality compliance.

Peleato is confident this new approach will make waves.  “Some additional testing is required, but we feel this tool will one-day be included in environmental monitoring practices working along-side the more rigorous and time-consuming lab-based system currently in place; that oversees industrial contamination events.”

The research was led by Yang Ye along with UBC Okanagan assistant professor Nicolas Peleato and in collaboration with Prof. Raymond Legge (University of Waterloo) and Prof. Robert Andrews (University of Toronto).  It was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Industrial Chair in Drinking Water Research at the University of Toronto.